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Mark Goldblatt Interview

by Daniel Hirshleifer

You may not know his name, but you certainly know his cuts. Having edited Pearl Harbor, Detroit Rock City, Rambo: First Blood II, and both Terminator films, his work has been seen by millions. dOc's Daniel Hirshleifer had the pleasure of interviewing Mark Goldblatt, the man who helped bring us some of the biggest blockbusters of the 1990s.

dOc: How did you get into editing?

Mark: I was a total film buff since about the age of eight and collected 8mm films which I ran over and over again (like Eisenstein's "Potemkin"). I watched countless hours of movies on TV. In the 50's and 60's N.Y. television showed classic films virtually all day and night—things like King Kong and Citizen Kane and all the Val Lewton films and all the Charlie Chan films and Universal Horror films; what a film education. I also made and edited my own 8mm films. So it was natural for me to want to be a film maker. After getting a BA in Philosophy, I studied at Film School and bluffed my way into an assistant editor's position.

dOc: What is the best part of being an editor?

Mark: Being able to create something out of a given set of filmed material, that seems to be greater than the sum of it's parts. By this I mean subtext and grace and counterpoint of characters (and performances) that comes out of a dialactical montage.

dOc:The worst?

Mark: The hours. 12-14 hour days or more are often very common. This is dictated by post-production schedules. You simply have to work as many hours as it takes to get the job done, and done well. Often, especially when starting out, this is not an issue. Editing is tremendously fun and creative and the time goes by very quickly. Sometimes however, especially when you have a family, you might just want to have enough free time to "have a life" outside of the editing room. It's a tricky balance, and quite often, the demands of the job will result in your missing out on a lot of events or opportunities or even experiences, outside of work. But as they say, "that's show biz."

dOc: Do you reference storyboards when editing? If so, how useful are they?

Mark: Generally only for complex visual effects scenes that I might have to edit together even when lacking many of the shots. I can use the storyboards as editing tools within a cut; as placeholders between footage that has been shot. Often, the storyboards are eventually replaced by animated storyboards (closer to the real shot that will be made, called "animatics"). In these cases, storyboards are very useful indeed. They help you to visualize the director's intention in designing a scene. However, I rarely use storyboards when editing non-vfx oriented material. I let the footage tell me what to do (and refer to the script and script notes when necessary).

dOc: You started editing in the late 70s. How has technology changed from then till now?

Mark: The technology shift has been massive. Digital systems enable us to collate and edit picture and sound much more comprehensively than we could with film, mag sound, and splicing tape. It's much faster and you can access and retrieve material almost instantly. Also, it is much easier to try different things with the material and create alternate versions of scenes so that you can compare different approaches. In the old days, you had one workprint and track. If you wanted to create a radically different alternate version, you tore apart your original and started again, sometimes making a black and white dupe of your original cut, as a protection reference (which usually took the better part of day). Now you can make as many different versions as you want, always keeping your original cut intact. The fact is, with digital editing, your hands can finally keep up with your creative (cutting) decisions. Also, it is much easier to create temp music and sound effects tracks for your scenes as well as creating temp visual effects right in the computer. This actually saves quite a lot of money in post by allowing you to experiment with different visual effects possibilities as you edit, at virtually no cost.

dOc: Considering that most films now use computer effects, does this change the way you edit a film? That is, do you now have to wait for footage to have computer effects added before you can edit them?

Mark: Not really. As stated before, we edit with storyboards, pre-visualizations, our own created temp visual effects, etc. In fact, before digital editing, we still had the same considerations. But everything seemed to take alot longer.

dOc: Which editors have influenced you?

Mark: Many, many editors have influenced me. In fact, I may not know the names of some of them, but I've probably absorbed quite a bit from watching their work. Here's some names (including some directors who started out as editors or edited their own work) in no particular order: Dede Allen, Anne V. Coates, Thelma Schoonmaker, William Hornbeck, Rudy Fehr, Don Seigel, Sergei Eisenstein, Joe Dante, Peter Hunt, John Glenn, Bob Estrin, Lynzee Klingman, Agnes Guillemot, and I'm sure that I left many names out that I'll kick myself for later.

dOc: What are some of your favorite films, in terms of editing?

Mark: Tough question. Here's a few: Potemkin, Psycho, The Wild Bunch, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Raging Bull, Suspiria, Breathless (Godard), A Hard Day's Night, Performance, Don't Look Back, Fight Club, Boogie Nights, Pulp Fiction, Lovers On The Bridge (Carax), and zillions more.

dOc: What are some of your favorite films, in general?

Mark: I love many different kinds of films. Almost anything by Renoir, Rossellini, Hitchcock, Ford, Hawks, Sirk, Welles, Kurosawa, Fuller, Visconti, Fellini, Antonioni, Leone, Chabrol, Franju, Bunuel, Truffaut, early and mid-Godard, Jerry Lewis, Bava, and Argento. Current faves are Tarantino, P.T. Anderson, and Fincher and Carax. I love horror films (especially classic ones and those by the two aforementioned Italians--especially giallo films). I adore Charlie Chan (especially Charlie Chan at Treasure Island) and Sherlock Holmes (my fave is The Scarlet Claw) and Hammer films and James Bond and Russ Meyer and Fassbinder and Aldrich and Billy Wilder,and Minnelli and Cukor, and............I could probably go on all night, but I won't. The truth is, I love the cinema in all its forms. Some timeless favorites for me are: La Regle de Jeu, Rio Bravo, Once Upon A Time In The West, Rome: Open City, Shock Corridor, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence. I'm pretty smitten these days by some upcoming Spanish directors like Iglesias, Amendabar, Medem, and of course Almadovar.

dOc: Do you try to create your own editing style, or do the directors dictate what editing style they want?

Mark: No one can dictate an editing style, but many try. I try to let the footage and performances dictate the cutting rhythms.

dOc: In general, how closely does a director work with an editor?

Mark: It varies. Some directors are very hands-on; others (the ones I most enjoy working with) allow the editor to do his or her version of the material before they get involved. The director benefits from the editors's objectivity. However, I must say that I enjoy a solid director/editor collaboration based upon mutual respect.

dOc: Are there particular directors that you really enjoy working with?

Mark: Quite a few. Paul Verhoeven, James Cameron, Joe Dante, Michael Bay,Adam Rifkin, and presently Joel Schumacher come to mind, but really, I've enjoyed collaborating with most of the directors I've worked with.

dOc: How do you choose which films you edit?

Mark: Based upon the script, the director (and the director's vision of the project), the producer, and often the timing of the project (for example, am I available to start the project? Am I too exhausted after a year and a half on killer project to start another one right away? etc.)

dOc: Is there a particular film genre in which you prefer working? Mark: I love big genre pictures: science fiction, horror, fantasy, and adventure. Also, anything with an edge. I seem to favor dark material (I can't tell you why). I'm always open to anything intelligent or visionary (not so easy to find).